Treasure Islands

Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World
Narrated by: Tim Bentinck
Length: 12 hrs and 52 mins
Categories: Money & Finance, Economics
4 out of 5 stars (132 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Most people regard tax havens as being relevant only to celebrities, crooks and spivs, and mistakenly believe that the main offshore problems are money laundering and terrorist financing. These are only small parts of the whole picture. The offshore system has been (discreetly) responsible for the greatest-ever shift of wealth from poor to rich. It also undermines our democracies by offering the wealthiest members of society escape routes from tax, financial regulation, and other normal democratic controls.

Treasure Islands brilliantly articulates the problem in a completely new way, and exposes the deep corruption that impacts on our daily lives. This is the ugliest chapter in global economic affairs since slavery - and secretive offshore tax havens are at the heart of the trouble.

©2011 Nicholas Shaxson (P)2011 Audible Ltd

Critic Reviews

"Shaxson combines meticulous research with amusing anecdotes, resulting in a very readable account of the murky world of offshore and a strong moral message that the system needs to be changed." ( Financial Times)
"Perhaps the most important book published in the UK so far this year." (George Mombiot, The Guardian)
"At last, a readable - indeed gripping - book which explains the nuts and bolts of tax havens. More importantly, it lays bare the mechanism that financial capital has been using to stay in charge: capturing government policy-making around the world, shaking off such irritants as democracy and the rule of law, and making sure that suckers like you and me pay for its operators' opulent lifestyles." (Misha Glenny, author of McMafia)

What members say

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    5 out of 5 stars

Amazing book on tax havens

I learned more things in this book than I typically do in 10 books combined.

Shaxson provides an eye-opening account into the seedy, underground world of offshore finance. Most of the stuff Shaxson discusses is not well known in public and is rarely commented on in mainstream media or newspapers.

For example, were you aware that the two biggest offshore zones are in fact the United Kingdom and the United States? In fact, the state of Delaware is actually the biggest "offshore" location in the United States. It has more incorporated organizations than anywhere else, and some of the laxest regulation. Just take a quick scan of some of the biggest companies in America and you'll find a majority are incorporated in Delaware (Bank of America for instance, or Sallie Mae, Amazon, Pfizer, etc.) It's too many giant companies to be merely coincidental.

The overall picture he paints is both fascinating and frightening, but it seems very possible that something could be done about tax evasion and the looting of poor countries by the rich countries if the main financial centers that aid the businesses in their looting decided to crack down in unison. But for them to ever do that, more people are going to have to understand how the whole system works. It's complicated, but very interesting and Shaxson does a great job explaining every facet of it.

As for this audio recording, I'd recommend getting it and listening to it. But be warned that the guy who does the reading does the most bizarre job I've ever listened to here at Audible. There are multiple times during the course of this book where he reads the same sentence over again. Often he'll stop, and start again with noticeable random pauses mid-sentence. A couple times he stopped reading and I could hear talking in the background. None of this is edited out -- it's like they let him read it all, first time through, and didn't do anything over and didn't bother to edit out the mistakes. Just bizarre, but he still successfully passes along the information of the book in a somewhat entertaining manner (this guy makes up about a thousand voices for the many different people Shaxson quotes from to tell his story).

Pick up this book. I liked it so much I also bought a hard copy to re-read it.

9 people found this helpful

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Important and shocking

Treasure Islands is a book that takes you on a journey into the secret world of finance. Although I have had some experience with the subject before, I was shocked at the scale that tax fraud and secrecy has reached. The book covers both the historical background for how we ended up in todays situation, as well as up to date examples of how the financial crisis was in large caused by tax havens.

This book is a must read, and it should be mandatory for all politicians, students and voters.

2 people found this helpful

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Everybody should read this book. Period.

It's both interesting and depressing to listen how we're just a tiny pieces on a much bigger board that's been played above us. The book is most about offshore but it does cover quite nicely how the free floating currency has its ways to of making the rich more rich and poor even worse off. I know this is a socialistic view and I consider myself more of capitalist, but this is exactly what's wrong in capitalism and somehow needs to be addressed. I don't know what a common man can do about this but to raise awareness and go from there.
The only thing that bothered me a little on this book is the narrator. He's great and easy to listen, but so clearly partial that it bothers at some points when the speaker is so clearly a "villain". And the accents are perhaps sometimes too exaggerated, but overall a very pleasant listen.

2 people found this helpful

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Beyond ideology

Although this book might seem a bit provocative, the argument presented against the offshore business is mostly fact based. I think that it is safe to say that economic policy does not need to be based on ideology anymore, but we can go beyond ideology and base our political opinions on facts.

Offshore business does not help economy as a whole, but it is rather a way to increase the profits of the few and externalize the risks for those, who are doing the productive work and are the true source of the wealth. Also offshoring is not only about tax evasion, but it is mostly, especially in financial sector, a way to go around the laws and regulations that e.g. necessitate the risk management for the banks. Without proper risk management, bankers can make at offshore up to six times more profit than with proper risk management and tax payers at onshore will pay the bill when the bubble bursts.

This is one of those books that can be gladly recommended for anyone, because offshore business is quite timely topic as it was major contributor for the current financial crisis. There is still plenty to discuss and the public awareness of the true nature of offshoring is increasing quite rapidly.

Narration was also quite good and quite British.

1 person found this helpful

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  • M
  • 01-30-12

Stranger than fiction!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

This is one of the best books that I've read in years. The audio version is outstanding.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The people trying to leave the bastions of tax secrecy were courageous, scared, and compelling.

Have you listened to any of Tim Bentinck’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No, but he's very easy to understand.

Any additional comments?

One of the best things that I've read in years.
This book will become increasingly important over the next several years, as economic pressures on individuals and governments prompt people to start asking where all the money went.

2 people found this helpful

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A real eye opener

Would you consider the audio edition of Treasure Islands to be better than the print version?

If you read this with an open mind, you may see the future of global finance and be able to better prepare for what is about to happen.

2 people found this helpful

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Required reading for every Econ class

This is a shocking indictment of our modern politico/monetary system. More importantly it is a background piece for anyone who wants to understand the history of the 20th and 21st centuries.

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good story, wrong conclusions

It’s a very interesting history of the rise of the city of London as a financial superpower and the role tax heaven jurisdictions play in the world economy. But the book goes downhill when the author starts talking about cabals, masons etc. and blames world poverty and the periodic financial crises on offshore banks and free movement of capital. The author talks about ‘poor’ African countries without checking even the most basic economic facts. Just 9% of the world population is poor today, much less than 30 years ago. The world is a lot better because of globalization and free movement of capital.

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Good idea. Bad objective.

Secrecy and deceptive accounting practices hide criminal activity and need to be reformed. However, absolute government control of our lives is the last thing anyone should be advocating.

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De cultura general

Todos tenemos que estar enterado cómo funcionan los paraísos fiscales y las repercusiones que tiene en la sociedad.

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  • M
  • 05-25-14

To pay, or not to pay tax ...?

To pay taxes, or not to pay taxes, that is the question ... To which the corporate, international financial and global criminal fraternity have answered with a resounding No. This is a wonderfully dark tale of money eating itself and spewing out more, on which it then feeds and grows, warping the laws and norms of civil society to their own needs to the point that all we can do is willingly, though blindly, throw ourselves into it to feed its relentless greed. A fascinating, inspiring and depressing book - brilliantly narrated, though poorly produced - that has left me angry and thoroughly intrigued. Read it. Then read it again.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Grigor Todorov
  • 02-11-19

Great book, terrible edit

The book is great but the audiobook is terribly edited. Multiple times the reader repeats a sentence and the editors failed to edit the first repeat out.
I quite enjoyed the reader voice acting and different accents, but the audiobook requires another pass and edit to be of the quality I expect from audible.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Paul Roberts
  • 05-11-18

Great insight to the world of the rich

Fascinating book and analysis of the offshore world. Would recommend it to any who wants an insight in to how the offshore jurisdictions were created and function

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-12-18

Excellently read...

A real eye opener...excellent....for anyone who wants to know more about Tax Havens...very good reader with creative linguistic style...

1 person found this helpful

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  • D. Burgess
  • 02-08-18

Fascinating and terrible

For all those struggling to join the dots to see the monster as a whole our financial services has become

1 person found this helpful

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  • EEL
  • 04-11-20

Good reading but poor editing

Again, I'll focus not on the book (which is excellent and depressing in equal measure as it makes it clear why global inequality exists and is getting worse) but on the audio. Tim Bentinck is an actor better known to many as David Archer in the long-running BBC Radio 4 soap, The Archers. He is very good at doing the various voices and accents that make it clear when the book is presenting verbatim quotes from various people. But at a certain point the sound editor has just given up and stopped removing bits where Bentinck had started, got the emphasis or accent wrong and stopped, intending that the editor remove the first take and edit to the second. The editor simply hasn't done this, so you get to hear the raw takes in lots of places. Bentinck is otherwise a good reader and actor but has been ill-served by his sound editor here and AUDIBLE SHOULD TAKE NOTE not to give money to whichever fly-by-night firm did the sound editing here -- terrible job! Bentinck's agent might also want to pay some more attention...

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  • Athar
  • 12-04-19

Very good book on tax havens.

Great narration. Slightly difficult to follow, but otherwise great and of significant import for the world.

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  • Mark Lynch
  • 07-29-19

A Must read (well, listen)

You might think you know a bit about the offshore antics of the rich and powerful but there's so much more. Such an incredible amount more. An essential read.

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  • YKW
  • 07-28-19

Very insightful

This book doesn't have fluff, there are a lot of hard to swallow truth in how the rich manages to avoid tax through avenue that's not available to the rest of us. It explains the concept of offshore and tax havens in great depth. However, I probably only understood 60% of the things explained in this book due to lack of understanding in economics and finance.

Think it will be a great re-listen for me in the future. A strong recommendation for anyone who's has a interest in finance or just want to understand how the rich/corporations operate their money.

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  • Suke
  • 02-26-19

Brilliant

Fantastic book. Well researched. Well written and a must read. Have already sent to four friends and thinking of more!
Audible’s sound editing has some glitches but only minor repetitions.